Ford Puma SUV review
"The Ford Puma is the best small SUV to drive and represents good value but its looks are divisive"
- Fun to drive
- Good value
- Polarising looks
- Limited engine choice
- Average warranty
The Ford Puma name has been revived, but in keeping with current trends, this time it's for a small SUV rather than a coupe. It was a controversial move among Ford fans, but the result is a model that has a crossover stance and a bigger boot than the Ford Focus.
If there's a class in which a quirky design has proved successful before, it's the one the Puma now finds itself in; the Nissan Juke that effectively kicked off the crossover segment looked like nothing else on sale. That's also true of the Toyota C-HR, even if a few other contenders, such as the Renault Captur, Skoda Kamiq and SEAT Arona, represent more conventional designs.
Unlike rivals such as the Juke and Peugeot 2008, the inside of the Puma is much more traditional. Sit in one of the car’s seats and the Puma feels a lot like a Fiesta on stilts, albeit a roomier one thanks to extra space in all directions. There's a new digital instrument cluster for the first time in a Ford, but the central infotainment screen is familiar and some of the dark grey plastics are rather unadventurous. At least the infotainment is clear and easy to use.
From launch there are three versions of Ford's 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, an entry-level 124bhp version and two mild hybrids with 124 and 153bhp. These three-cylinder petrols are well suited to the Puma's lively character, with the top version offering brisk acceleration from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. The mild-hybrid system works effectively to harness the energy usually wasted while slowing down, using it to take some strain off the combustion engine. The resulting figures of around 48-50mpg with CO2 emissions ranging between 127-140g/km make the Puma affordable to run for both private and business drivers.
It might be fairly tall, but Ford's engineers have worked their magic on the Puma's chassis, and it's a good crossover to drive, with a pleasant manual gearbox, nice steering and little body lean. Know-how and some shared parts with the excellent Fiesta help here, and the Puma feels as engaging as many well-sorted hatchbacks. Along with the current 1.0-litre petrol engine, a diesel is also expected to join the standard Puma line-up in 2021.
For buyers who want a Puma with more punch, the Ford Puma ST is also available. It uses the same 197bhp engine as the Fiesta ST hot hatch and manages the 0-62mph benchmark sprint in 6.7 seconds.
Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and ST-Line Vignale trim levels are available. Standard kit on the Puma includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, wireless phone charging and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. ST-Line adds a sporting makeover and digital instrument panel, while ST-Line X brings part-leather trim, tinted glass and a B&O sound system.
At the top of the range, the ST-Line Vignale gets a model-specific alloy wheel design and tweaked styling with a mix of black gloss and chrome trim. Inside, imitation leather-trimmed seats are fitted, with matching trim on the instrument cluster.
Larger in every direction than the Fiesta, the Puma is big enough to steal some Focus sales, and its 456-litre boot is actually a bit bigger and more practical, with a handy washable storage 'MegaBox' liner, adjustable floor and flexible parcel shelf that accommodates tall items. There's also decent room in the back for passengers, although it misses out on the sliding rear bench of the Renault Captur.
With small SUV sales soaring, the Puma is a very important model for Ford. It might not be the most beautiful but it already looks like the crossover to choose if you value driving fun. With mild-hybrid technology, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine should also ensure it isn’t expensive to run.